Pericles – History, Accomplishments & Facts

The declaration of war against Sparta resulted in a very bloody 27 years – i.e. the Peloponnesian War. The war was a wrong gamble for Pericles and Athens as the city of Athens paid a heavy price. To make matters worse a devastating plague ran amok through Athens, killing more than 20,000 people.

Basically transformed the Delian League into an Athenian empire | Quote: a quote from Pericles speech to Athens assembly as he called Athens to declare war against Sparta

How did Pericles die?

As Athens grappled with the economic and political fallout from its war with Sparta, the plague devastated many parts of the city. Pericles and his two children were one of tens of thousands of people that succumbed to the plague. According to historians, the Athenian statesman and philosopher died in 429 b.c.

More Pericles facts

In addition to developing the city-state of Athens, culturally and architectural wise, Pericles instituted Athens’ first large-scale democracy. | Image: Bust of Pericles, Roman copy of a Greek original, British Museum

  • Much of what we know about Pericles comes from two main sources, including the historian Thucydides who often heaped tremendous praise on Pericles. The other source was from Plutarch, the Greek historian and philosopher.
  • Even though Plutarch praises Pericles’s unshakable good virtue and pursuit for true democracy, the Greek historian bemoans the fact that Pericles spearheaded an unnecessary and very costly war against Sparta.
  • Owing to his immense contributions to Athenian democracy, culture and arts, Pericles was referred to as the “first citizen” of Athens.
  • His reforms helped fortify Athens’ reputation as one of the greatest and most influential cities of the ancient world.
  • Due to his efforts, Athens was able to become the cultural, political and economic hub of ancient Greece. He thus tried to create an Athenian empire that waged war against Sparta for regional dominance.
  • Because he was perceived as incorruptible by Athenians, he was able to secure reelection after reelection in the assembly. Besides he was a very intelligent and well-spoken orator. He thus became a somewhat indispensable figure in Athenian politics. Many of his political opponents, including Thucydides, a relative of General Cimon, were forced into exile.
  • According to Greek historian Herodotus, Pericles’ mother Agriste dreamed that she gave birth to a lion. This dream of hers came just a week before Pericles was born.
  • In his middle age, Pericles was influenced by many philosophical thoughts, including the ones from Sophist philosophers as well as the likes of Anaxagoras, Zeno of Elea, and Protgoras.
  • The Periclean Age (or Age of Pericles) is known to have spanned from 461 b.c. to 429 b.c.
  • The contributions Pericles made to Athenian society resonated long after his death in 429 b.c.

Pericles’ Funeral Oration

Pericles’s Funeral Oration (Perikles hält die Leichenrede) by Philipp Foltz (1852)

The funeral oration given by Pericles is found in historian Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. According to the historian, the funeral oration was delivered towards the end of the Peloponnesian War. It was given to honor the soldiers that had fallen.


To this day, his political reforms and philosophies underpin many institutions across the world.

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